Archive | Cooking RSS feed for this section

Brown Rice & Beans Bowl

26 Feb

So this is a verrrrrrrry close knock-off of the “Whole Bowl” and/or Cafe Yumm’s “Yumm Bowl.” What is it you ask? It is widely popular here in Portland and is a bowl of short grain brown rice mixed with black & red beans, sliced black olives, cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream, and a secret curry based sauce. The sauce is what melds everything together nicely and gives it much flavor. It’s creamy, garlicky, and lemony. There are a lot of copycat recipes online for the Yumm! Sauce and Whole Bowl’s Tali sauce. I chose to go with the Yumm! Sauce recipe and it turned out awesome. Could it be because of the extra special curry spice I used that  my MIL brought from Vietnam???… who knows but nonetheless, being able to make this sauce at home is like a miracle.

Be aware that this recipe for the sauce yields 4 cups. At first I thought it was too much but it’s so good that I drench my bowls in it (the more the merrier!), and I also eat it with veggies and fries. I can usually make around 12-14 bowls. Yep, 12-14 bowls! We eat it for lunch/dinner for about a week straight. I don’t get sick of it but Ben can only handle about three days worth. It’s one of the very few vegetarian dishes that I find hearty, healthy, and DELICIOUS!

Yumm!/Tali Sauce (adapted from


  • canola oil- 1/4 cup
  • sliced almonds 1/2 cup (substitute almond flour for creamier consistency)
  • nutritional yeast 1/3 cup (available at Whole Foods and in the bulk foods section @ Winco)
  • chickpeas, cooked- 1/2 cup (I used canned. Remember to rinse and drain!)
  • silken tofu- 1/4 cup
  • filtered water- 1/2 cup
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice- 1/2 cup
  • garlic cloves, peeled- 2
  • kosher salt- 1/2 teaspoon
  • curry powder- 1 1/2 teaspoon
  • dried oregano- 1 teaspoon
  1. In a food processor (best in 11-cup to prevent spillage) blend oil, almonds, chickpeas, and tofu.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until the texture becomes creamy.
  3. Pour in a jar, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Remember the yeast and don’t cover too tight.

Feel free to use as much, little, or none to your liking. To assemble your bowl, you will need:

  • short grain brown rice, cooked :: I eat about 2 cups *oink oink
  • black beans, cooked (I used canned) :: 1 1/2 spoonful
  • red/kidney beans, cooked (I used canned again…) :: 1 1/2 spoonfuls
  • sliced black olives :: 2 spoonfuls
  • avocado, sliced :: 3 slices
  • medium cheddar cheese, shredded :: 2 generous pinches… or 3
  • light sour cream :: a dollop
  • cilantro, chopped :: a couple pinches
  1. Layer everything in the order listed above.
  2. Drizzle the Yumm!/Tali sauce over everything (I like mine saucy).
Optional: I like to also add a little bit of Sriracha sauce, and a little bit more Chalula sauce.
  1. Mix everything together in the bowl with your spoon.
  2. Lick your spoon and then dig in.


Traditional Vietnamese Fried Rice

19 Feb

My favorite kinds of fried rice are (in order):

  1. Traditional Vietnamese.
  2. Kimchi with Spam!
  3. Omurice (a Korean omelet filled with fried rice served with ketchup)
Top Three Reasons to Make Fried Rice:
  1. You have a large quantity of rice leftover.
  2. There’s a potluck.
  3. Everyone likes it! From adults to the little kiddos.

We eat rice with our meals about 2-3 times per week. I always make a little extra just in case and it usually results in having leftover rice more so than not. There’s a large ziplock bag in the freezer reserved for those occasions. It accumulates over time and a full bag will yield enough fried rice to feed 8-10 hungry mouths! If you don’t know already, fried rice is better made with rice that is a day old or has been previously refrigerated/frozen. I don’t recommend using freshly cooked rice at all.

Traditional Vietnamese fried rice is my favorite and I learned how to make it by watching my MIL, YouTube videos, recipes online, and some books. Now I have a go-to recipe that I can always count on. I was able to pick and choose from several different versions and formulate the perfect one, IMO 😉

Traditional Vietnamese Fried Rice


  • fish sauce- 1/4 cup
  • oyster sauce- 1 heaping tablespoon
  • sugar- 1 tablespoon
  • ground black pepper- 2 teaspoon
  • cooked rice **preferably NOT just cooked. if so, let it cool first.**- 6 cups
  • olive oil for the pan
  • eggs- 4
  • water- 1 tablespoon
  • medium onion- diced
  • garlic- 4 cloves chopped finely
  • carrots- 2 diced (I usually blanche diced carrots for about 3-5 minutes beforehand)
  • frozen snow peas- 1 cup
  • small baby shrimp- 1 cup –or– raw shrimp- 1/2 lb peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • Chinese sausage- 2 cut in half length-wise and diced
  • scallions- 2 sliced
  • fresh cilantro- small handful chopped
  • Maggi Seasoning Sauce- 1 tablespoon

First, make your eggs.

  • Set a fry pan over medium-low setting and drizzle with olive oil. Swirl pan to coat evenly.
  • Whisk eggs and water in a bowl.
  • Pour egg mixture into fry pan and let it sit still for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Check every now and then to see if it’s flippable.
  • It might still be slightly runny on top but if you can, gently flip the egg omelet and let it cook another 5-10 minutes.
  • Every stove is different so use your best judgement and make sure the eggs are cooked slow enough to prevent it from browning too fast. You want it to be soft and gently puffed with sponge-like air pockets inside.
  • Remove from pan onto a cutting board. Let it cool.
  • Slice into thin strips and then dice. Set aside.
*************If your wok/pan/skillet/pot isn’t big enough to cook the entire amount of rice, make in two batches!*************
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and black pepper.
  2. Place rice in a large bowl. Set aside within reach of your wok.
  3. Have all your vegetables, shrimp, Chinese sausage, eggs, fish sauce mixture, scallions + cilantro ready to go on the side.
  4. Heat your wok or a large heavy bottomed skillet/pot on medium high.
  5. Add olive oil to coat the pan and swirl to coat evenly.
  6. Add your onions and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to a little below medium.
  7. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add shrimp and cook until pink (cook time depends on size of shrimp)
  9. Add carrots and snow peas and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  10. Add fish sauce mixture and stir to mix everything well.
  11. Add Chinese sausage and continue to stir for another 5 minutes.
  12. Add cooked eggs and stir to combine.
  13. Add your rice and combine well. Continue mixing and cooking over heat for 5 minutes.
  14. Add scallions and cilantro.
  15. Add Maggi Seasoning Sauce and toss everything again to combine.

I like to make this when I have leftover roast meats (ham, turkey, chicken). Typically, I won’t add Chinese sausages if that’s the case because that would be meat overload (but still good!). Omit and add anything as you please. What I love most about a traditional Vietnamese fried rice is the fish sauce mixture, scallions + cilantro, and eggs!

Salad à la Fridge II

17 Feb

Made another “Salad à la Fridge” using leftovers from the previous Oven Fried Chicken.

Combined with baby bella mushrooms, butterleaf lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced hardboiled eggs, and freshly ground black pepper. This was a really delicious/fulfilling salad made fast with what was already on hand. My boyfriend was amazed and had a second, and even third helping of it!

Oven Fried Chicken

17 Feb

One of my favorite meals is fried chicken paired with buttery mashed potatoes… washed down with an ice cold glass of Coke (with a fresh lemon wedge, of course!). The last time I fried up a batch was on July 4th for a small group of friends. It was a blistering hot day and I was deep frying 24 drumsticks for over 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen. Oil splattered everywhere because I used my Lodge cast iron skillet that is 2″ high, and the temperature inside the house kept rising. Everyone stood around waiting for me to finish so that we could all sit down and eat together. It got to the point where some of us became delirious, including myself, and probably delusional. The chicken turned out good but not great.

I decided to give it another shot when I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for Oven Fried Chicken. It enables you to fry it halfway ahead of time and then finish it off in the oven all-together just before guests arrive. Soaking them in buttermilk prior to the day of frying will help ensure juicy-ness. The results? Amazing. Ina Garten never disappoints.

Frying Tips:

  • Use a higher heavy-bottomed stock pot to prevent a whole lot of oil from splattering everywhere. I used my dutch oven.
  • Assembly line and organization helps a LOT when deep frying.
  • Do not get any water in the oil! That’s when it starts popping and splattering like mad!
  • Stay close by and keep an eye out on the temperature of the oil as it heats up. It takes much longer to cool than it does to get hot.
  • A neat trick I learned from my mother is to cut open a few brown paper bags and line the surrounding floor. Clean up is a breeze!
  • Tongs may keep your fingers clean from batter but fingers are the way to go.
  • Invest in a candy thermometer that will latch onto the rim of the pot easily and stay there.

Oven Fried Chicken (adapted from Ina Garten)


  • organic whole chickens- 2 at no more than 4.3 lbs each cut into 8 serving pieces
  • buttermilk- 1 quart (***1 1/2 quarts if you’re using chickens larger than 4 lbs each***)
  • unbleached all purpose flour- 2 cups
  • kosher salt- 1 tablespoon
  • freshly ground black pepper- 1 1/2 tablespoon
  • onion powder- 1 teaspoon
  • garlic powder 3/4 teaspoon
  • cayenne pepper- 1/2 teaspoon (more if you dare!)
  • dried Thyme- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Vegetable oil or any other oil you prefer for deep frying
  1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour buttermilk to submerge them. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Place a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Set aside for chicken that have completed frying.
  4. Line another sheet pan with wax or parchment paper. You’ll use this to place battered chicken awaiting their turn to be fried.
  5. Combine flour, salt, black pepper, and all your seasonings in a shallow dish. I used a round 9.5″ Pyrex dish. Set aside near chicken submerged in buttermilk & sheet pan lined with paper.
  6. Heat  1 1/2″ of oil until it reaches 360 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  7. Take chicken out of the buttermilk and evenly coat it with the flour mixture. Place into hot oil. Do not over crowd the pot.
  8. Fry 3 minutes on each side.
  9. Remove and place on wire rack set on sheet pan.
  10. When all the chicken is fried (if you’re using larger chicken, you will need to do two separate batches) place into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. (I checked mine with an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part until it reached 160 degrees).

We dug into the first batch while the second finished baking in the oven. By the time we were close to being done, they were hot and ready to go! We love our sauces. Above we have Chalula, Sriracha, Tobasco, and ketchup.

My favorite combo: ketchup + Chalula!

Much better than all those fried chicken chains. Far less salty, higher quality meat, fried in new oil (not from days [maybe even weeks] of use!), and made with love ❤

Happy Birthday, Ben!

7 Feb

What we ate:

Main course: Wine Braised Pork Chops (from the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated)

Sides (not pictured): Sweet mashed potatoes w/ butter & maple syrup, and a side salad w/ MIL’s Lime Vinaigrette.

The verdict: Wine braised pork chops were a complete let down! Bland and overcooked.

Ugh, I can’t stand it when this sort of thing happens. More so being that it was Ben’s birthday and having spent 3+ hours in the kitchen on it. I studied the recipe weeks in advance and shopped for the goods at our local Whole Foods. The butcher gave me the wrong cut… twice (I had to drive back to exchange it). I needed shoulder BLADE chops and not a single one of them knew what I was talking about. That may have been the problem. I was limited on time and hurried out of the store with bone-in and what seemed to have a good amount of marbling. Lesson learned. Do not cook something you’ve never made before on a special occasion for the 1st time. I felt awful because his mom and brother also had to endure the tasteless cardboard-like meat. Luckily, they were all sympathetic and greatly appreciative of my efforts. Everything was eaten!

This made up for it…

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake via Ina Garten

You can never go wrong with Ina Garten. She’s my hero… even though the woman is butter-happy (I use less than called for).

All in all, it was a great day. I was exhausted in the end. My dish rack was piled high, the dish washer was full & running, and more dishes were in the sink and on the counter patiently waiting their turn.

I am thankful for:

  1. My understanding boyfriend.
  2. My understanding MIL and BIL (brother in-law)- bless their hearts for finishing their plates.
  3. Our newly revived iRobot vacuum.
  4. My dishwasher- I know a lot of people out there who are without one.
  5. Ina Garten.

Happy 33rd, babe!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Covered Strawberries

6 Feb

February 14th, 2011: Ben gave me an adorable mini Orchid plant. He also attempted to make me chocolate covered strawberries.

The plant has come into bloom again for the first time since entering our home and it reminded me of those strawberries Ben so thoughtfully made. We don’t really celebrate V-Day but he always finds little ways to make them memorable. Last year, I put in a small request for a couple of those chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. Ben chanted how easy they were to make at home and offered to whip up a batch for me. I was elated!.. but I should’ve known better. Turns out that he melted chocolate directly inside of a sauce pot and ended up burning most of it. We still laugh about it today. For the most part, they were edible and quite good, actually. Looks were lacking but who was I to judge his skills (back then)?

If you don’t already know, the correct way to melt chocolate is over a double broiler. I don’t own one so I use an improvised one. All you need is a heat proof glass bowl set over simmering water. My version of chocolate covered strawberries does not require any shortening or butter. Just plain melted semi-sweet chocolate & fresh strawberries. And some sliced almonds, if you’d like.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

Makes approximately 20-25


  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)- 2 cups
  • Fresh strawberries- 20 to 25 medium size. Washed and patted dry with a paper towel. Pull back green stems.

Optional: Crushed/sliced almonds

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler. If you don’t have one, place a heat proof glass bowl on top of a sauce pot filled with about 1.5″-2″ of water. Pour chocolate chips into bowl and bring water to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Stir occasionally until all the chocolate chips have melted and then gradually reduce heat to low.
  3. Line a rack with wax paper or parchment paper and set near the stove on the counter.
  4. When the chocolate has completely melted, begin dipping each strawberry 1 at a time.
  5. If you want to roll them in almonds, do so right after dipping in chocolate.
  6. Place gently on lined rack. Continue until all the strawberries are complete.
  7. Cool entire rack in the refrigerator for approximately 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

MIL’s Lime Vinaigrette

23 Jan

I grew up in a house where salad dressings only came in a bottle from the store. It wasn’t until I met Ben’s mom (aka my MIL) that I learned how much tastier and healthier it was made from scratch at home. She has a signature lime vinaigrette that we all LOVE. It’s sweet, tangy, and plain ‘ol delicious. It goes well with any green salad and is easily adaptable for varying taste buds. I can safely say that there is always a jar of this in our fridge.

MIL’s version of this vinaigrette is sweeter. She never uses measuring cups or spoons so I had to guesstimate amounts of each ingredient as she whisked them in. I’ll admit that I saw 2 heaping (plastic Asian soup) spoonfuls of sugar going in + a glob of honey…

Here is my version. All original ingredients remain intact. Measurements are slightly altered.

MIL’s Lime Vinaigrette:

Makes approximately 4.5 oz. Enough for 3-4 side salads.

  • fresh lime juice- 1/4 cup (about 1 lime)
  • granulated sugar- 1 generous teaspoon
  • honey- 1 generous teaspoon
  • dijon mustard- 1/2 tablespoon
  • Maagi seasoning sauce- 1 teaspoon (found at your local Asian super market in the same aisle as soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, etc.)
  • extra virgin olive oil- 1/3 cup
  • fresh ground black pepper
  1. Juice lime into a bowl or jar that you’ll be using for the dressing.
  2.  Add sugar, honey, dijon mustard, Maagi seasoning sauce.
  3.  Whisk together.
  4.  Slowly add extra virgin olive oil while continuing to whisk.
  5.  Add fresh ground pepper (as much as you’d like).
  6.  Let it sit and emulsify for at least 15 minutes. I promise it’ll taste better.

If you want a lighter vinaigrette, use less lime juice and/or add more extra virgin olive oil.

Other variations to try:

  • add chopped garlic
  • substitute lime juice with lemon or white vinegar
  • use all honey and NO sugar
  • substitute honey & sugar with agave nectar (1 spoonful agave = 3 spoonfuls sugar)
  • substitute Maagi seasoning sauce with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Chip says, “My gammie’s Lime Vinaigrette is delightful!” as he wags his tail excitedly.